Under the Coalition Government, overall spending on education had by 2013-14 been cut by over £5 billion in real-terms. Previous increases in education spending have been reversed. With a General Election imminent, the promises made by the major political parties all suggest further real-terms reductions in spending per-pupil in schools.
Overall public spending on education in 2013-14 was £90.2 billion. The equivalent figure for 2009-10, adjusted for inflation, was £95.5 billion 1.
The Conservative Party’s plans for education spending, should they win the General Election, will mean further cuts. David Cameron has promised that school funding per-pupil will stay the same in cash-terms - but this could mean a real-terms cut in value of up to 10 per cent due to inflation, even before the impact of extra costs such as higher employer National Insurance and pension contributions. The Conservatives have not promised to protect post-16 or other education funding. Overall, they plan deep cuts in public spending, leading to it falling to a level not seen since the 1930s as a proportion of GDP2.
Labour has committed to safeguard the overall education budget (including early years, schools and post-16 spending) in real-terms, while the Liberal Democrats have said that funding from nursery through to age 19 will rise in line with inflation until 2020. Such real-terms guarantees are, however, of limited use unless they are applied on a per-pupil basis to protect schools against the impact of sharply rising pupil numbers.
Under the current Coalition Government, overall funding for schools is estimated to have increased by 0.6 per cent per-pupil in real-terms between 2010-11 and 2014-153. This has not, however, been distributed equally to local authorities or schools. The largest single block of funding, the Dedicated Schools Grant, was cut by over 3 per cent overall which equates to over 5 per cent per-pupil in real-terms. The remaining funding was provided via the Pupil Premium, targeted at particular pupils and therefore distributed unevenly. Many schools have had to use Pupil Premium funding simply to plug the gaps caused by other funding cuts.
Capital funding has been cut dramatically. The Building Schools for the Future Programme was scrapped in 2010, cancelling 700 school building projects. There has been a total real-terms cut in capital spending of over a third since 2010-114.
The Education Services Grant which includes money for spending on school improvement, management of school buildings and tackling non-attendance will be cut by £200 million (around 20 per cent) in 2015-16, further denying schools access to essential services5.
Funding for 16-19 education overall has been devastated, with huge real-terms cuts estimated at almost 15 per cent6. The new 16-19 funding formula will cut sixth form colleges funding by a further 6 per cent if implemented fully from September 20167. The long term future of many colleges is deemed to be at risk if the cuts continue8.
Despite the growing shortage of school places in many areas, particularly in the primary phase, and the looming teacher recruitment crisis, the Coalition Government has prioritised funding for its ideologically-driven academies and free schools programme. Forty two free schools have opened in areas with no predicted need for additional places, at a cost of at least £241 million9.
Although the Government has, under pressure from the NUT and others, allocated additional funding for school places, local authorities say that this is not enough to fund the places needed. The impact of any new funding will be hampered by the Government’s insistence that any new schools must be academies or free schools. (see our Edufact School Places Crisiswww.teachers.org.uk/edufacts/school-places-crisis)
In Wales, overall funding for schools has been allowed to fall in real-terms, exacerbating the shortfall in overall funding in comparison to England, most recently estimated at £604 per pupil. The Welsh Government has announced in year funding cuts to the Education department in 2014-15 amounting to over £4.4 million resulting in even greater pressures on school budgets.
Looking to the future, the Coalition Government has already altered the school funding system to pave the way for a National Funding Formula (NFF). This has already significantly reduced local authorities’ ability to take account of schools’ differing needs. Having intended to introduce the NFF from 2015, the Government has backed away from this, saying that it will be introduced alongside longer-term spending plans after the General Election. Without additional funding for transitional protection, however, the redistribution of funding between areas under a NFF will mean that overall school funding will be even less likely to match the needs of children and schools.
This briefing sets out the facts about funding for academies, including the significant changes made to academy funding since 2010. It shows that the funding academies receive may not be sufficient to cover the extra cost of paying for services previously provided by LAs and warns of the risks of converting to acadamy status.
This updated leaflet (English version - Welsh version) sets out what you need to know about the cuts, including the impact on teacher pay and pensions. It explains the real context of the cuts and the damage they will cause - and also that there is an alternative to cuts, privatisation and job losses.